Monday, 21 December 2015

My Beautiful Horses

I never really thought of myself as a 'collector' until I started to buy Schleich models. I'd always sort of thought that you had to collect expensive things (like Faberge Eggs) or novelty things (like bottle caps) or things that had a lot of value as they aged (like stamps) to be called a 'collector'. But the truth is, I've been a collector since I was about 6 or 7 years old. And one of the very first things I began collecting was My Beautiful Horses.
Omar (renamed Tango), Heather & Sundance
I know I've already talked about these a little in a previous post, but they were such a big part of my childhood that I wanted to dedicate a whole post to them. If you've never heard of them before, My Beautiful Horses were a range of plastic horse toys produced in the 1980s to 1990s, aimed primarily at young girls between the ages of about 6 to 11. I like to think they were intended for kids who loved ponies, but wanted their toys to look more realistic that My Little Pony or even Barbie horses (at least, that's how I looked at them).
The very first pony I got came with a book. His name (according to the book) was Jewel, and he was a black version of the pony above, with a white diamond-shaped star on his head. Sadly, like many of my collection, I traded him to a friend when I was younger and now no longer own him. Shortly after I got Jewel, my mother bought me a subscription to My Beautiful Horses magazine.
Ben and Samson
 I loved MBH magazine. Every month the next issue would arrive, and with it would be a new free gift pony attached to the front in a little plastic bag. I was always so excited to see the new model. Each one came with a name and breed, and there was a feature in the magazine telling you about the breed of your new pony. Through this I discovered breeds I'd never heard of before, like Norikers, Akhal Tekes and Falabellas.
Rusty (renamed Brandy)
 I played with my horses for hours. They were my favourite toys growing up. There were stables and riders and tack available to buy too, although I normally made my own stables out of cardboard boxes with cardboard-box card taped in to form stalls :) I spent many happy hours making stables for all my horses.
 As a child I wanted to be a vet, so I also loved the sister-brand to MBH: Animal Hospital. This came with vet centres and models with colour change 'wounds'. Since both brands used the same models they were easily interchangeable, and I used my MBHs as patients for the vets to make better, and they could then go out for rides afterwards.
Poor Conker's missing ear
 One of my magazine horses, Conker, came to me with a missing ear. This didn't spoil my fun, however, as I pretended that he'd been injured and needed the vets to look after him.
Fergus and Galway
 You've probably noticed by now that a lot of these models have shorter manes and tails. All MBHs came with very long manes, but as a child I didn't think they were very realistic, so most of my horses got a haircut.
 Looking back at them now, I wished I'd left them alone. Many of the haircuts are less than ideal, and the models with long manes tend to be the nicest after all these years. Besides that, the models in original condition are, naturally, more collectible. But I don't regret it. I loved my ponies just as they were at the time, and I still love them now.
Omar (renamed Tango after a pony I rode on holiday)
Name unknown
Something else I discovered through MBHs was customising. Whilst I never went very far, I used to add facial and leg markings using Tip-ex, and some like Conker had black points painted on with oil paints. Most of my additions are not very good, as you can clearly see, but again, I love them just the way they are.
Klaus (renamed Believe)
 My biggest 'repaint', however, was actually done using a felt tip pen! I loved (and still love) dapple greys, but none of my models came painted in this colour. So I decided to make my own, using a white horse and a grey felt tip pen.
 Very carefully, I drew interlocking circles or 'dapples' on my model's neck and sides. If I went wrong, I just rubbed away the wet pen with my finger and started again. Even after the pen had dried I had to be careful with her, since my fingers could still rub away the ink, but I was really pleased with the finished result.
Over the years the pen has faded somewhat, but you can still clearly see the 'dapples' I drew on her. And even now I think she looks quite lovely. I officially consider this horse to be my very first custom/repaint, since all the others just had minor white markings added to them. She may not be the best, but she holds a very special place in my heart, and I still adore her to this day.
High Jinks
Unfortunately, My Beautiful Horses stopped producing models and magazines, and my subscription ran out with a new pony mag, this time without a free toy and aimed towards people who owned real horses. Since I didn't have a real horse of my own I very quickly got bored with the new magazine, and didn't renew my subscription. I was really disappointed, as I loved my MBHs and looked forward to getting a new model every month. Later I moved on to flocked ponies, then Grand Champions and eventually discovered Schleich.
But the story doesn't end there, at least not for these plastic ponies. They are now produced under the name I Love Ponies, so there's every chance you might have seen similar toys being sold today. I'm happy that a new generation of children will get a chance to play with these little plastic horses, even if they're a little bit different now. No, they're not the most realistic or conformationally accurate, but they're charming and very reasonably priced (and they don't have any plastic bumps between their hind legs to prompt embarressing questions from your kids!). They're a prefect introduction to the world of model horses for any child, and I've even caved and bought a couple myself... Well, you all know how much I love chestnuts :)


  1. MBH were where my collection started too! I used to have a website about them but lost it when webs stopped offering free hosting. There are a LOT of these little guys in little boxes in our spare room :)

  2. MBH! Oh my gosh! This. This post is me.

    The first one I got was Klaus (wee you did a great job with those dapples), and I ended up with two of him. I loved these little ponies. These were amongst my first "collectable" ponies, if not the first.

    If I had duplicates of any of them, I'd use tippex to put markings on their legs and faces. And all of them had their hooves coloured in with a black permanent marker. And they were frequently at the Animal Hospital!

    I remember Sundance being the last one and being very sad about it...

    I still have some of those magazines somewhere, I think...